ZDNet has an article up about Facebook’s new Places feature including quotes from sociologist Ray Oldenburg: “Facebook Places rebuffed by eminent sociologist who inspired it.”  Oldenburg is described as “an expert in the design and analysis of public places and advocates for their importance in the development of civic responsibility and democracy.”

Oldenburg suggests that there’s been a decline of places where we can build social connections with others in our communities outside of home and work. He suggests the need for such locations (referred to as third places) including bars, coffee shops, and general stores, which can facilitate those connections. In the above article, however, he questions the ability of Facebook’s new Places feature to accomplish this. Oldenburg is quoted as saying:

Real places unite people, electronic ones, because they are based on user choice, tend to be divisive; that is, to connect people who think alike and exclude others.  The term “virtual third place(s)” is common and most inappropriate.

Oldenburg is the author of The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community and Celebrating the Third Place: Inspiring Stories About the “Great Good Places” at the Heart of Our Communities.

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